WILTON — With piles of old leather and metal scraps now gathered by a contractor to be safely entombed on the site, town officials said the grounds of the former Wilton Tannery appeared better than anticipated during a tour on Thursday.

The site surrounding the former tannery building had been littered with tons of leather scraps, but by Thursday it had been cleared and readied to be seeded with grass. Two selectmen and the town manager who visited the site said they were surprised what the land could look like after the waste was removed.

“It’s actually nicer than I had expected,” said Selectwoman Tiffany Maiuri, who said she had seen the site while it was still contaminated with the remnants of more than 40 years of operation as a tannery spread around the property.

The property, on U S. Route 2 across from the intersection with Tannery Road, is the site of a federally funded Brownfields Program project intended to remove toxic material and make the land safe for reuse.

Several years ago, a number of environmental issues were identified on the former tannery grounds, including the disposal of tannery wastes in a portion of the site near a now closed wastewater treatment plant and the presence of asbestos-containing building materials. Over the past several years, soil has been removed from the site and asbestos abatement work has been done to prevent contact with the cancer-causing material once used as a fire retardant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program awarded a $200,000 grant to the town of Wilton, which hired Ransom Consultingand E.L. Vining & Son to round up the material and safely bury it on the site.

By Thursday, a crew of Vining contractors had finished gathering 12,000 cubic yards of contaminated debris and had placed it in a natural depression in the land.

The large pile of accumulated material will be covered with a protective layer of soil and a cover that instructs future users not to excavate.

The leather and metal scraps were found throughout the property, but were concentrated in the back of the parcel near the Wilson Stream bank. Next week, contractors plan to seed the property with grass.

Jaime Madore, of Ransom Consulting, said there were more contaminants gathered from the property than expected, but reported that all of the material has been gathered and contained.

Madore said the state Department of Environmental Protection had done extensive testing on the site and approved of the methods used to isolate the polluted material as a safe way to clean the property for reuse.

The Brownfields project is intended to qualify the site for a state DEP program that provides protection from environmental liability for property owners who voluntarily clean up toxic waste sites. Once certified under the Voluntary Response Action Program, the property can be sold without a buyer assuming the risk of being held responsible for the previous pollution.

The buried toxins, Madore said, are not considered likely to seep into the ground.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish said she had seen the property while it still had contaminants spread around the site and said the cleared area should be attractive to commercial buyers.

She noted that the property location had resale potential and part of the lot had access to the Wilson Stream. Marketing materials prepared for the site by the Greater Franklin Development Council pitch light industrial and mixed-use commercial use or eco-tourism.

Irish said when the property is finished being cleaned, town officials hope to sell it to a commercial buyer. The spot where the material would be buried would be off-limits to excavation, but contractors said a future developer would have other options for that part of the lot, such as building a parking lot.

When the plan was first presented, consultants said by consolidating the contaminated material and burying it on site, the plan would safely remove the material and save money by avoiding the cost of transporting the scrap.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 

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